Athleticism matters in the NFL. Colts GM Chris Ballard says that, defensively, his team looks for players who can make a mistake but still recover. That’s where things like size, length, and athleticism come into play.
Some players simply don’t make those mistakes in the first place, however. These are the players who are already so skilled that we’re going to trust the tape after some less-than-stellar performances in Indy.
Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
I need to see video of Jeudy’s 4.53 short shuttle. It simply doesn’t make sense. It was one of the worst times of any wideout in attendance and was beaten by multiple quarterbacks and even an offensive lineman. Jeudy's 4.45 40 was nice, but his 35-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump were not particularly explosive. Still, Jeudy hasn’t even turned 21 yet and has put up over 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns the past two years. I’ll trust the best route runner in the class to produce in the NFL.
Ohio State IOL Jonah Jackson
Jackson’s 5.23 40, 7.83 three-cone and 5.02 shuttle were all below average times. The only redeeming drill Jackson had was his 28 bench press reps. That being said, his technique is on another level from any other interior lineman in this class. His hand usage in pass pro is second to none, and few positions have a history of bad athletes succeeding in the NFL quite like the interior offensive line.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Edwards-Helaire was never going to test fast. In fact, I thought his 4.6 40-yard dash was good for him based on what I saw on tape. This was a man who got caught from behind by linebackers at times. His bread and butter is his wiggle, which is why I’m surprised he didn’t do change-of-direction drills. One doesn’t simply break 71 tackles on 214 carries during an SEC schedule by accident.
OSU WR K.J. Hill
Based on his tape, I thought a 4.6 40 was respectable for Hill. He was never a deep threat in Ohio State’s offense, as he operated almost exclusively from the slot in his career. But his craftiness on the underneath route tree is silly, and his ability to get off press at the combine was some of the best in the class. He’s far, far better at actual receiver things than last year’s second-rounder, Parris Campbell, despite having nowhere near his athleticism.
Alabama S Xavier McKinney
McKinney started cramping after his 4.63 40, so there’s no telling if that’s indicative of his speed or not. The Alabama safety’s 36-inch vertical and 10-foot-2 broad jump were a good ways off the explosiveness of the top safeties in the class. But his work at and around the line of scrimmage doesn’t take elite speed to continue at the next level. He had grades of 90.3 in pass-rushing and 89.2 in coverage last year.
Auburn DT Derrick Brown
Brown had the worst three-cone of any defensive lineman in attendance (8.22) and had an unexciting 27-inch vertical. While he may not project as an elite pass-rusher in the NFL, this dude has pocket-pushing run defender written all over him. He can play from any interior alignment as well. You can chase high-end play in the first-round, or take a safe, low-floor player like Brown.
Iowa S Geno Stone
If there was ever a safety who can make up a split second with his instincts, it’s Stone. He trusts his reads and breaks on balls as well as any safety in this class. It’s why he earned an 89.8 coverage grade as a true sophomore in 2018 and 84.5 this past year. At not even 21 years old, he’s a rare dude even after running a 4.62.
Utah CB Jaylon Johnson
Johnson’s write-up can almost mirror that of Stone’s. The dude just understands the ins and outs of cornerback play (literally and figuratively). His 4.5 40, 7.01 three-cone, 4.13 shuttle, 36.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-4 broad jump are all solid figures for the position, but not eye-popping. Turn on the tape, though, and you’ll see a first-rounder.